Tuesday, September 18, 2012

ethics, politics and neo-vitalism

Against the Grain Radio Program, Mon 9.17.12.  Suzanne Guerlac on Bergson and the Open Society

We feel a connection to family and to nation -- but what about to all of humanity and, beyond that, to every living being? Henri Bergson wondered how we could move from an us-versus-them mentality to what he called the open society. He also drew a distinction between the body made swollen by our consumption patterns and the relatively shrunken human soul. Suzanne Guerlac explains and assesses Bergson's ideas. 

HT dmf for the link HERE containing some good commentary on how neo-vitalism may appropriate Bergson to think about issues in politics, ethics, and religion.

Monday, September 17, 2012

a note about "point scoring"

I've actually remarked about this once before.  HERE.  The sooner philosophers learn that it's not about scoring points, gate keeping, clutching spots, and trying to run with fashion, the better.

The better?  The rigor of academic work which draws on chains of reasoning in the mobilization of concepts, a striving to creatively attain theses, activity which acknowledges sources and then builds one's own arguments with those acknowledged sources in the background - this would do everyone some good.

Agent Swarm blog has in mind (I think) what I have in mind, see HERE.

Relevant quotes from his post:
Can the internet favour acts of enunciation, and thus of individuation, of a new and more democratic nature? Adam Robbert at KNOWLEDGE ECOLOGY has published a very interesting post on blogging as a mode of philosophical expression....Robbert admits the possibility of a “carnival of ideas” allowing us to renew our feeling of “intellectual excitement” that presided over oour initial enthusiasm for philosophy. But he seems to relegate this to a purely psychological dimension of passionate exchange between peers....Robbert is concerned about an important aspect of philosophy, namely its dialogical dimension. But surely twitter feeds and comment threads do not exhaust the possibilities of philosophical dialogue on the internet, nor are they condemned  by their very essence to be arbitrary, wrong-headed, and narcissistic. An interesting phenomenon is the dialogue between blogs, which permits the authors to take their time in building up arguments and mobilising concepts. 

I would actually disagree with this last sentence only because blogs tend to be scanned rather than read.  Which is why the blog mini-treatise undoubtedly fails (especially when treatise-length posts are hurled at you every other day).

Robbert affirms that “the ecology of the blogging medium doesn’t permit the kind of long-chain, rigorous explication of ideas that philosophy and academic inquiry require”. I think he is right in emphasizing the importance of long circuits and rigorous explication, but I regret this conclusion in favour of the academic style as the only rigorous one. The carnival of ideas , he seems to say, can get us motivated again, but the real work is in the academy and expressed in the academic style.
I think philosophical blogging can let you highlight what Deleuze and Guattari called the “non-philosophical” comprehension in terms of percepts and affects that provokes, accompanies, and extends philophical comprehension. The danger is to confuse this with your own empirical non-conceptualised feelings and experiences. A blog is also adapted to conceptual experimentation (the “carnival of ideas”), allowing your thought to be a little more open, more fluid, more transversal. It can favour encounters with other thinkers. In my case these encounters have been few and far between, but very enriching when they occur, enough to encourage me to keep on blogging despite meeting often with indifference or hostility. The other aspect that I find important is the exploring of philosophy as a “mode of subjectivation” (Deleuze) or a “spiritual exercise” (Hadot, Foucault, Onfray), or as I now prefer to call it a process of individuation (Jung, Simondon, Deleuze, and Bernard Stiegler).

So in essence blogging can let you highlight your comprehensions and perceptions, but the real hard work comes in the crafting of a tight and solid well-argued article or paper which deserves to be slowly read (or carefully listened to) rather than quickly scanned.  

This need not be a strictly "academic" affair (as in it's worth something only if it's in print), but only requires a medium where a slow, engaged response may be afforded.  And typically that happens in the form of articles or books (open access online or print) rather than through tweets and blog posts.  A tweet of 140 characters contributes only to perception war at best, a blog post communicates a flavor or provisionally articulates a thought or hunch or opinion - to be scanned by the reader, no more than 300-600 words, tops.  An article/paper/review is what I read expecting real philosophical work.  

The upside to blogging is that it is fluid and engages creative ideas with other scholars, it is a spiritual practice in the sense it helps to direct and shape one's own philosophical and personal trajectory of thought - a "mode of subjectivation," and that is good.  But when the rubber meets the road, well-argued articles and books shall forever (it seems) trump blog posts and tweets.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Metaphysics and the Great Divide: Neoclassical- vs. Neo-Pragmatism

I thought that this post (and comment) by Jason Hills from immanent transcendence blog was interesting. Peirce, the founder of pragmatism, is essentially unknown to Huw Price (cited in Jason's post) who is a proclaimed pragmatist extraordinaire with an interest in deflating metaphysics. Peirce has a robust metaphysics, perhaps one that is more systematically developed than other pragmatist metaphysics on either side of the divide.

Regardless of this fact, Peirce's metaphysics and speculative philosophy, his non-correlationist phenomenology and his aesthetics, even his "speculative grammar," all receive short shrift today. Another very important figure who is neglected (not a pragmatist, but a philosopher for whom Peirce was key) is Justus Buchler.

I keep hammering on how a retrieval of Whitehead by contemporary metaphysicians demands a retrieval of both Peirce and Buchler. When it comes to metaphysics, most pragmatists are anemic compared to these two.

To some credit however, recent speculative philosophers (philosophers of the new metaphysics, for example) such as Quentin Meillassoux have given a nod to Peirce's semiotics with the Meillassouxian "kenotype," as found in Meillassoux's 'Repetition' Berlin paper. Nathan Brown also has given a nod to Peirce, as has Adrian Ivakhiv and Jane Bennett.

But Buchler's Peircean-Whiteheadian "ordinal" metaphysics is up for first-grabs for any contemporary speculative philosopher and I would like to see it happen. 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

the ultimacy of creativity: connections to the process versus object debate

[I]t seems that “creativity” is simply Whitehead’s expression for that most general trait which all actual entities have in common.  As he tells us in the categoreal scheme, it is “the universal of universals characterizing ultimate matter of fact” (Process and Reality, 31)....Each [actual entity] exhibits the same metaphysical character of being a particular instance of creative activity.  Accordingly, the ultimacy of creativity seems to coincide with the ultimacy of the act of “self-creation” by which each actual entity comes into existence (Process and Reality, 130).
These observations give rise to a significant question concerning Whitehead’s metaphysics.  If creativity is nothing more than a universal characteristic of actual entities, would it not be both possible and desirable to replace the term “creativity” with the expression “actual entities” in our most rigorous statements of Whitehead’s system?
Interestingly, the author goes on to argue that reducing creativity to actual entities is neither possible nor desirable.  Read the article by William Garland, from Explorations in Whitehead’s Philosophy, edited by Lewis S. Ford and George L. Kline (New York, Fordham University Press, 1983): 212-238, HERE.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

some positive responses to Brassier's recent interview

Some positive and thought provoking responses in the blogosphere about the Brassier After Nature interview can be found at Speculum Criticum Traditionis HERE and Dark Chemistry HERE.

The Speculum post really hits the nail on the head, I believe - as it just identifies so concretely that subtext which alot of readers may be curious about, given Brassier's position (or assumed position vis-a-vis his older work in Nihil Unbound) versus my own position (given what has leaked from the forthcoming Speculative Naturalism or simply from the outlook expressed on my blog in general) when it comes to philosophical naturalism, neo-vitalism, process philosophy (whether through Grant or Sellars), materialism, a "dynamics of the sensible" and so on (vis-a-vis the new directions that Brassier's work seems to be heading).  As the post from Speculum summarizes it, "The way Niemoczynski posed the inquiries also makes me think again that there are always secret connections that can be brought to light between very disparate and apparently antagonistic projects."

While a short interview, given the subtext and the suggestive responses on Brassier's part, I found the interview as something that whetted my appetite concerning his future work. I hope that my readers found the interview suggestive as well.